What is a squeeze?
That’s the question most of us had when we first began this project. A squeeze is a copy of an inscription made using wet filter paper and a horsehair brush to pound the filter paper into the grooves of the stone. Once the paper has dried, it can be peeled off and will have a perfect replica of the inscription.
Our squeezes are all between 40 -70 years old and are still in fairly good condition considering their age and the material. They are, however, susceptible to damage and some of them are quite large, which makes using them in a classroom difficult. By digitizing the collection, we hope to make the inscriptions more widely available and user friendly – no one has to worry about damaging a digital file, while the paper could easily be torn if we were to try incorporating them into everyday classwork.
Our main concern when we first thought about digitizing the collection was how to appropriately scan or photograph the squeeze while keeping the 3D quality of the inscription visible. Simply photographing the paper was insufficient. As you can see from the shot below, it is almost impossible to make out the raised letters on the page.
The team at Digital Initiatives has take a few test shots to determine the viability of the project. In order to capture the texture, raking light was used (standard practice for epigraphic photography). HDR images – one overexposed and one underexposed – are merged to create the final image, giving the clearest image of the inscriptions. The results far exceeded our expectations.
Our other concern for the digital squeeze collection was the sheer size of it. We have over 1,000 squeezes; hosting images of each squeeze at a resolution that would make them useful for epigraphic study would require resources beyond our budget. By partnering with Digital Initiatives, this hurdle was removed. The collection will be hosted by UBC Library Digital Collections; rather than spending the summer learning computer coding and database management from the ground up, our graduate students can focus on creating comprehensive metadata, transcriptions and translations of the squeezes.
Our intention is that this digital collection will give any student the opportunity to study these inscriptions and to make the most of a previously neglected resource.